When my first baby had his first cold, all my kind friends and relatives rallied round, and not only advised certain cures, but even pressed me to accept their pet remedies as gifts.
I finally collected an array of bottles and jars on the back of the wash stand (now an obsolete piece of furniture).
There were camphor oil, eucalyptus, Friar’s balsam, kerosene (a few drops on sugar— a certain cure!), Spanish liquorice, patent and home brewed cough mixtures, paregoric, aspirin in several forms, and last but not least, an old-fashioned “bronchitis kettle.”
Needless to say, I could not use all these medicines on the one poor child, so I contented myself with one or two to relieve any distressing symptoms that arose, and for the rest, just relied on general common sense treatment.
Knowing that whatever I gave, the “cold” would run its course, and that my job was to keep the child as comfortable as possible, and to prevent complications from arising and further infections from developing.
Left window open
The first thing was to keep the baby in his cot in a warm, but well ventilated room. Aunty wanted me to shut all the windows, and even plug up the ventilators for fear of draughts, but that would only make the air stale, so we left a window open and put a screen round the head of the baby’s cot.
He was kept warm with soft woollies and booties, and a warm (not hot) water bag at the foot of the cot.
On cold westerly nights we had a small radiator on in the room, and because the air was so dry and irritating, and baby was developing a cough. I turned the radiator upwards on a box, and simmered some Friar’s balsam in an old tin on the top.
The warm, moist air is very soothing to inflamed nasal and air passages, and when medicated with one teaspoon of Friar’s balsam it is curative as well.
Saline nose drops for babies
It was sometimes difficult to get the baby to sleep soundly because he could not breathe freely. After cleaning out the nostrils with little twists of cotton wool dipped in camphor oil, I laid baby flat on his back and inserted a few drops of 1⁄8 percent or 1⁄4 percent Neo-Synephrine in saline (salt water) (or I might have used Ephedrine 1 percent).
It is important not to use oily drops for a baby as they may be inhaled into the lungs and cause pneumonia.
The bottle of nose drops with dropper should be kept for the baby alone and not used for any other member of the family.
These drops I used only when the little nose was blocked at bedtime or about 10 minutes before a feed. They should not be given more often than three hourly and not continued longer than three days.
I found that raising the baby’s head with an extra pillow kept the upper air passages clear.
Effect of aspirin on babies
Of course, as any mother would be, I was very concerned when baby was flushed, feverish, and restless, and had visions of pneumonia and all kinds of dire diseases.
But the thermometer (well shaken down) inserted under his arm against his chest for a full minute, revealed barely 100 degrees, though I tried it twice.
¼ of an aspirin tablet crushed and mixed with a little condensed milk, was enough to settle the little chap’s restlessness and fever.
Later, when he was over a year old it needed half a tablet. For older children who become very restless and upset with a cold, I have found that the aspirin compounded with Codein (½ tablet crushed) is very effective.
Excellent and harmless a remedy as aspirin is for children, when given once or twice, it should not be continued indefinitely without medical advice, as children can be seriously upset if it is given too frequently.
Feeding baby while having cold
The same precaution pertains with cough mixtures. They should not be given indiscriminately to babies and young children, such as a few drops from father’s bottle. They should be prescribed by a doctor in doses appropriate to the child’s age and needs.
A cough can be allayed by rubbing the chest with heated camphor oil and eucalyptus, (1 tablespoon oil to 1 teaspoon of eucalyptus).
One of the mother’s greatest difficulties is to get her baby to eat and drink enough when he has a cold. She has been brought up on the old adage: “Feed a cold and starve a fever”. How can she “feed the cold” when baby simply refuses all the carefully prepared meals she offers him?
It is worse than useless to try to force food on a sick baby who refuses it. Nature is resting his digestive system, which simply cannot deal with food.
However, he will almost certainly be thirsty, and he needs plenty of fluids. A breastfed baby should be kept on the breast, despite his cold.
Cow’s milk should be more diluted than usual, while water and sweetened fruit juices should be given for Vitamin C.